Summer Music Preview – Part 1

It appears that we’ve once again come to that point of the year where the sun is shining, the grass is growing as green as ever, university students roam the streets late at night, looking for a fresh new watering hole to hold up for a few months until class starts up again and live music is out and about in full force.  During the next four months Friday and Saturday nights are sure to be jammed packed with so much live music that you really won’t know if your coming or going.

This also means that festival season is knocking on the door.  With so many great artists and events happening in such a small amount of time, it can be difficult to pinpoint which festival is best for you, but do not fret for we are here to help you narrow down this difficult decision.

(to better help you organize your summer calendar this list will be in date order.  Also, Canada Day will not be woven into the dates, but will have it’s own section due to every area having it’s own show)

June 13th & 14th – Maritime Countryfest, Officer’s Square Fredericton, NB.

Lineup – Alan Doyle, Doc Walker, Kellie Pickler, Trace Adkins & more

Not the biggest way to kick off the summer season, but if you’re a  country fan it’s also not the worst way either.  Trace Adkins will bring his southern country drawl, Pickler is a pretty face that most reality show buffs will recognize and Doc Walker will bring that typical, assumed country sound.  Alan Doyle (lead singer of Great Big Sea) is the most likely to bring a sound and feel that will get the people moving, and if your lucky he might even break into one of the million classical jigs he knows from his Great Big Sea days.

Verdict – If I lived in Fredericton there is really no way I’d find myself even walking past the venue to get a two minute listen.  Save your coin, there’s better country shows on the horizon.

June 28th & 29th – Big Red Festival, Charlottetown PEI (Weekend 1)

Lineup – Lights, Mariana’s Trench, Sam Roberts, Adam Baldwin + more

PEI has really begun to set itself up as the music festival capital of the Maritimes.  The Big Red Festival is broken up into two separate weekends.  The first weekend is broken into two very specific evenings.  Saturday appears to be designed for the teeny boppers (Lights & Mariana’s Trench headline the evening) while Sunday evening will really showcase some of the best Canadian rockers we have (Adam Baldwin, Sam Roberts and Hey Rosetta! just to name a few).  I’ll admit that the Saturday night show isn’t anything to be blown away by but you are in for a great show the following evening.

Verdict – I would deal with the first night if it meant I could get to see the next evening, but luckily you can purchase tickets for specific days so rest up Saturday to save yourself for the next night.

July 4th, 5th & 6th – Cavendish Beach Music Festival, Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island.

Lineup – Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, Darius Rucker, The Mavericks, Hunter Hayes, Dean Brody & more

Over the past few years, the East Coast has really grown into a country lovin’ area which is only hammered home by the fact that the second festival on this list is another cup of country brew.  Another reality show personality (Blake Shelton) hits the Maritimes, highlighting a show which is far more fan friendly.  Hunter Hayes will have the younger crowd eating out of the palms of his hands, while Dean Brody brings some good ol’ Canadian country to the stage.  Darius Rucker  is sure to continue to distance himself from the Hootie days (but I’d be damned if he didn’t break out at least one song from the old catalogue).  Lady Antebellum is the big name on this show and will not disappoint.  This Nashville trio (only by design….that other guy really doesn’t do much) is sure to impress with their tight knit harmonies and fantastic stage presence.

Verdict – A massive improvement when compared to the Freddy show.  Even if you don’t know any of the artists on this bill your sure to recognize a few of the songs.  If I’m in PEI I’d be trying to win tickets but due to other shows the same weekend I’m skipping on the travel.

July 4th, 5th, & 6th – Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Canso, NS

Lineup – Bruce Guthro, Garnet Rogers, Joel Plaskett, Thom Swift, Guy Davis + Many others

What many consider to be the party /festival of the year, Stanfest has quietly grown into a not to miss weekend.  With a lineup that boasts some of the best acts that the East Coast has to offer, not to mention a great atmosphere and a continuous jam from stage to crowd, which runs day and night, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival is one to go out of your way to see.  The festival has onsite camping, water, showers and vendors to make the weekend as comfortable as possible.  Many of these artists on their own would be enough reason to take the trek, but knowing that you are more than likely to see some of them come together to collaborate on impromptu jam sessions is all that needs to be said.

Verdict – Purchase tickets now and make arrangements…if you can’t grab a motel and don’t have a tent, go buy a tent and camp.  If you can’t buy a tent, borrow one and go.  If you can’t borrow one, someone will let you crash in theirs….I really can’t emphasize how fun this weekend is.

July 5th – Salmon Fest, Grand Falls, NL.

Lineup – Maroon 5, Pitbull, Simple Plan, American Authors & Virgina to Vegas

Over the past few years Salmon Fest has had some pretty classic acts, but for some odd reason they missed the boat this year.  I’ve already spent some time chopping this years event down to the ground and if your interested you can check that out here.

Verdict – If I live in the area I go only because who knows how often bands are going to head to the rock, but other than that there is noway any of these acts are worth dropping a small fortune for a flight over.

July 11th & 12th, Smokin Blues Fest, Aylesford, NS

Lineup – John Campbell John Trio, Matt Minglewood, Highway 125

This blues festival is still in the infancy stages of getting off the ground, but thanks to lots of great work by organizer, Jay Chetwynd it does not appear that the lack of years in the festival game is having an ill effect.  With up and coming acts like Highway 125, Eddy’s Basement and blues legends Matt Minglewood and John Campbell John all taking the stage over the course of the weekend, its a safe bet that you could find yourself in the middle of one massive party.

Verdict – It might be the blues, but don’t be fooled….this is one rocking weekend and at a measly $55 for the entire weekend it’s more than a great bang for your buck.

July 11th, 12th & 13th, Evolve Festival, Antigonish NS

Lineup – Peaches, Grandmaster Flash, Hey Rosetta!, Fred Penner + a boat load more

The Evolve festival has grown into a festival that some would say has a Woodstockian feel to it.  Most who attend this festival are not only drawn in by the wide array of music but also the entire vibe of the weekend.  On site camping makes it quick and easy to navigate between bands and an overall super friendly atmosphere makes everyone feel welcomed.  Leave your judging at the door and enjoy yourself.  Musically this festival provides a little bit of everything ranging from rock to folk to techno (and a little Fred Penner for all of you who grew up in the 80’s)  Also of note is that this will be the last show for Halifax dance rockers The Jimmy Swift Band…..keep your eyes open during that set and expect something special to happen (Slowcoaster will also be on site…..I’m thinking you could see some seamless sets happening).

Verdict – If your up for 3 days of non-stop music and don’t mind sleeping in a tent, this is the show for you.  Great music, great people and a great venue make for a not to miss weekend.

July 12th, Big Red Festival, Charlottetown PEI (Weekend 2)

Lineup – Matt Mays, Death Cab For Cutie, The Killers + more

Weekend #2 of the Big Red Festival is one of the biggest shows to hit the East Coast this year.  By blending in a great crop of local talent (The Town Heroes & Matt Mays) with other great Canadian acts (Kardinal Offishall, Bahamas & July Talk) and world renowned artists (Death Cab for Cutie & The Killers) Charlottetown has positioned itself as the place to be on the 12th of July.

Verdict – It might come across as a little mainstream for some, but don’t let that keep you away as this show could quite possibly go down as the show of the year.  A killer lineup combined with a monster crowd will equal one hell of a night.

Look for part 2 on Monday.

About the author


Jeff is one-fourth of the group that makes up HAFILAX. His usual ramblings can be read right here on the website. If reading isn't your thing, he also hosts the Basement Tapes podcast.